Thursday, October 31, 2013

My Vegan Prenatal Vitamins & Supplments

Since I blogged about the prenatal vitamins and supplements I took during Avery's pregnancy, it only makes sense for me to give you an update as to the ones I took this time around during Mila's pregnancy. Vitamins and supplements have always fascinated me and as you can tell from the post that follows, I thourghouly enjoy researching them. What comes from that research is finding new brands, new formulas, and new products, so although some of the vitamins may look familiar from that post from Avery's pregnancy, I've added, taken out, and changed a few things. 



Now although I'm one researching-girl, I'm no doctor! Do not let me be your end all to be all...these are the supplements that worked best for my body and my pregnancy. Everyone is different, but at least this could be a starting point for you to get you thinking. On top of all of this, many people think it was crazy for me to be vegan and pregnant! How could you possibly be getting enough calcium/B vitamins/iron/protein? Your baby is not going to be healthy! Well, those are all very valid points and possible downsides to having a vegan diet during your pregnancy, but I feel with some simple planning and common sense you CAN have a HEALTHY, HAPPY vegan pregnancy...not to toot my own horn, but I'm living proof! 

Little did I know I was about 3 days away
from giving birth here!

Update as October 31st...My baby girl was born 7lbs. 12 oz. and was 19 inches long. She was alert, happy and healthy. On top of this I had no complications with my pregnancy, labor, or delivery. 

Little Miss Mila

Granted I may have gotten lucky, but I like to think that all the planning I put into eating a healthy vegan diet, getting plenty of exercise (and rest) as well as taking the appropriate vitamins and supplements had something to do with it.

My prenatal vitamins and supplements.

Here's a video discussion of the prenatal vitamins that I took during Mila's pregnancy (which as you can see by the video, I'm still pregnant with!)....



So with all that said, let me jump right into the vitamins and supplements I took when I was pregnant (many of which I continue to take now):

1. Prenatal Multivitamin- I took: Vitamin Code: Raw Prenatal Multivitamin.


Approximate Cost: $39 (lasts 2 months)
When and how much to take: 3 capsules per day (I do 2 at breakfast, 1 at dinner)
Why do I take it: I take this pricey vitamin over a Centrum or One-A-Day prenatal is because it is made with whole-food complexes, not synthetic chemical isolates. Meaning that our bodies recognize and absorb the nutrients better. A key thing about this is that it also is easier for our stomachs, and when you're pregnant that is one area you definitely want to keep happy! These supplements are so easily absorbable by your body that you can take them with or without food (most traditional vitamins must be taken with food to help with their absorption). Although it could have been for a number of reasons, I experienced very little morning sickness and perhaps this prenatal multi had something to do with it?

Other key features: it's uncooked, untreated, contains no binders, fillers, is gluten and dairy-free, non-GMO, contains probiotics to help enhance mom and baby's immune systems, and ginger to help with morning sickness and digestion. It can be taken before conception, during pregnancy, and while breastfeeding (I took mine while breastfeeding Avery). Here is a closer look at the ingredients and supplement facts.

2. Omega 3s: I took: Dr. Fuhrman's DHA + EPA: Purity



Approximate Cost: $37.99 (lasts 40 days)
When and how much to take: 0.75 mL daily at breakfast (it comes with a dropper so this is easy to measure) Also, be sure to refrigerate it!
What nutrients and how much? DHA: 175 mg, EPA: 88 mg.
Why do I take it: For a long time I figured I was getting enough omega 3s from my diet, but from some research I've done, and recommendation of my health idol Kris Carr in the post: "Nutritional Supplements: Which ones should I take?" I've learned it's an important supplement to add to my routine.

While pregnant one aspect of omega 3s is very important, DHA. It has been shown to be benefical in supporting fetal brain and vision development. Additionally, Dr. Furhman's website cites a study where improved intelligence scores of breastfed children whose mothers took DHA during pregnancy and nursing.  (source) He also mentions that DHA supplementation reduces the risk of premature birth.  Omega 3s have also been shown to be helpful in treating depression, espescially postpartum depression.

Even beyond pregnancy, omega 3's have also been linked in helping treat and prevent ADHD and coginitive disorders, as well as prevent Alzhimer's, Parkinson's disease, coginitve decline that often comes with age, and even cardiovascular disease.

A key aspect of this supplement is...that the DHA and EPA is dervived from lab-grown algae instead of fish oil, so not only are we avoiding possible toxins like mercury and dioxin, but we are choosing a more sustaibnable opition instead of placing a burden on our already taxed oceans.


Other key features: Knowing how important Omega 3s are in supporting good health especially during pregnancy, I knew I wanted to start including them in my vitamin regimne, but finding the right supplement was a challenging task. Problem #1: Finding a vegan omega 3 supplement. Problem #2: Finding an omega 3 supplement without the food additive "carrageenan". Carrageenan is commonly found in things like non-dairy milk, non-dairy cheese, and nutritional drinks, and even pre-packaged meals.  This is an ingredient I first found out about in this post by Food Babe ("Watch Out For This Carcinogen in Your Organic Food"). This post led me to do some more research about   a report created by the Cornucopia Institute titled, "Carrageenan: How a Natural Food Additive is Making Us Sick." In this report, it stated that...

"Many individuals experiencing gastrointestinal symptoms (ranging from mild belly bloat to irritable bowl syndrome, to severe digestive inflammatory bowel disease) have noticed that eliminating carrageenan from their diet leads to profound improvements in their gastrointestinal health." 

So with this in mind, I cut it completely from my diet and my digestion has improved. To make a long story short, this DHA + EPA supplement by Dr. Furhman is the only one on the market I was able to find that was vegan and carrageenan-free. So although the price is a bit steep, I enjoy knowing Baby Mila and I are getting the benefits that come from omega 3s, while staying away from tummy-trouble-causing carrageenan.

Important disclaimer about omega 3s, while they are very benefical during conception and pregnancy, around 37 weeks of pregnancy I stopped taking this supplement, under the advice of my midwife because it a prostaglandin inhibitor (aka blocker). Prostaglandins are important when it comes to helping the cervix ripen and starting labor, so often times continued omega 3 supplementation in the last few weeks of pregnancy could lead to delayed and prolonged labor. So since I have a history of going late (11 days with Avery) this is advice I listened to and around 37 weeks I stopped taking this supplement. I replaced it with Evening Primrose Oil, a supplement I will tell you more about later, but in a nutshell, EPO (as it's often called) is a prostaglandin itself and has been found to help support the ripening of the cervix...which we want at the end of labor. Update as of October 31st, Mila was born one day after her due date, not sure if EPO's are to thank, but they sure didn't hurt. ( :

But no fear, I will pick the DHA + EPA supplement right back up once Mila is born in order to keep my omega 3 levels up to not only continue supporting her cognitive development (as she gets it through my breast milk) but also to help prevent postpartum depression.

3. Evening Primrose OilI tookEfaGold: Evening Primrose Cold Pressed Oil 500 mg.



Approximate Cost: $9-12  (lasts one month)
When and how much to take: 1 softgel daily at breakfast during the last 3 weeks of my pregnancy
What nutrients and how much? Evening primrose oil: 500 mg
Why do I take it: Evening Primrose Oil, or EPO, as it's often called, is high in Vitamin E, and the essential fatty acid: gamma linoleic acid (GLA). The essential fatty acids are converted to prostaglandins in the body, which is a hormone necessary for a variety of body functions...as I shared with the Omega 3 supplement. Also, it helps prepare the cervix for delivery and make labor more comfortable for mother and baby.

Come to find out, evening primrose oil can also be helpful for women that are trying to get pregnant because it has been shown to help women produce more cervical mucus and (which helps guide the sperm to the egg) as well as increase the survival rate of sperm in the mucus. Last, EPO has been found helpful for those that aren't pregnant, in how it can treat: bloating, cramping and breast tenderness due to PMS, joint pain due to arthritis, and even some skin conditions like acne. Read more here or here.

One last note: This product does contain gelatin, which makes it non-vegan, and although there are vegan versions available online, this one worked well for me, so I'm sticking to it.


4. Vitamin D- I takeNordic Naturals Vitamin D3 Vegan



Approximate Cost: around $18  (last one month if you take 2 doses a day)
When and how much to take: I take 2- 0.5 ml per day (I do 1 dose at breakfast, and 1 dose at dinner)
What nutrients and how much? Vitamin D3: 1,000 IU per 0.5 ml, making my total dosage: 2,000 IU daily
Why do I take it: Awhile back I read this book called: The Vitamin D Cure by Dr. James Dowd that really opened my eyes to the importance of getting more vitamin D and how it could help decrease risks of and heal: arthritis, obesity, heart disease, muscle cramps, and support a healthy immune system, and even improve your mood and skin just to name a few. But since it's difficult to get the recommended dosage from the sun on a consistent basis, I started looking into supplements.

Other key features: Not only is vitamin D great for everyone's health, it's especially important for pregnant women. A recent study was done that showed a group of women who took 4,000 IU daily during their pregnancies had less chances of: early labor, premature birth, and infection...compared to other pregnant women who took smaller doses of vitamin D. You can read more about this study and the benefits of vitamin D and pregnancy here.

Throughout my pregnancy I took two servings of this supplement, in addition to 1,400 IU from my multivitamin and 1,600 IU from my Calcium/ Magnesium supplement, giving me 5,000 IU of vitamin D daily and I did not experience early labor, premature birth, or infection. Whether it was due to this supplement I guess I'll never know, but there sure seemed to be more possible benefits in taking it, as opposed to not taking it.


Something special about this Vitamin D is that it is vegan...a rare thing when it comes to vitamin D supplements. A majority of vitamin D comes from lanolin (think the grease that comes from sheep wool), but now there is this awesome product so we can leave those poor sheep alone!  Instead of lanolin, this supplement uses organic lichen (pronounced- "liken" which is an algae/moss that grows on rocks), and just so happens to be a naturaly vegan source of Vitamin D3.

5. Probiotic- I took:Renew Life Ultimate Flora Critical Care 50 Billion ($35 for 30 capsules).
When and how much to take: I took one capsule daily at breakfast
Aside from helping my stomach feel better and staying more regular, there is some research out there that shows probiotics during pregnancy can: decrease your babies chances of developing allergies and eczema, and reduce belly fat in mothers after birth, among other things.


6. Calcium/Magnesium: I took: Garden of Life Vitamin Code Raw Calcium


Approximate Cost: $27 (lasts about 1 month)
When and how much to take: 5 capsules per day (I take 2 at breakfast and 3 at dinner)
What nutrients and how much? Calcium: 756 mg, Magnesium: 386 mg, Vitamin D: 1,600 IU
Why do I take it: It's clear that including calcium and magnesium in your diet is an essential aspect of pregnant nutrition, but when you don't drink milk, or eat cheese, yogurt, or other dairy foods how do you get this? With this delicious Cal-Mag supplement of course! "Wouldn't it be easier just to drink milk?" you may ask. Well if you would like to drink blood and pus (see here), yes it would, but since I have an allergy to cow's milk and I don't like the mucusy feeling it gives me, I steer clear and take this instead.

Other key features: A key feature of this supplement is that the calcium is sourced from a plant, not from rocks. Specifically this brand uses something called, AlgaeCal Raw, which is an ocean-derived, organic, whole food plant form of calcium. Benefits of using this plant form of calcium include that aside from providing calcium, it also provides 73 naturally occurring minerals and trace elements like magnesium, silica, and boron. This calcium supplement also contains vitamin D (1,600 IU), which helps support bone health and increases the absorption of the calcium by up to 80% (according to their website).  Also, it is gluten-free, dairy-free, free of binders and fillers, free from limestone, rock, chalk, or animal-bone sourced calcium, and non-GMO.

7. Vitamin B Complex- I took: by Garden of Life Vitamin Code: Raw B Complex 

Approximate Cost: $14 (lasts 1 month)
When and how much to take:  2 tablets per day, one at breakfast and one at dinner
What nutrients and how much? Thiamine B-1: 5mg (3,333% DV), Riboflavin B-2: 10mg (588% DV), Niacinamide: 45mg (225% DV), Vitamin B-6: 10mg (500% DV), Folate: 450 mcg (113% DV), Vitamin B-12: 133mcg (2217% DV), Biotin: 325 mcg (108% DV), Pantothenic Acid: 45mg (450% DV).
Why do I take it: Kind of like calcium, B vitamins are one of those things that us vegans might be a bit low in, and although there are some food sources (such as nutritional yeast), I wanted to be safe so I started this B vitamin before getting pregnant.  One main reason to take a B vitamin supplement is for cellular energy support , they also provide mental and physical energy, support healthy blood, healthy heart, immune system function, and a healthy response to stress.

Another great thing about this B vitamin is that it's high in vitamin B6, which has been shown to help prevent and treat morning sickness during pregnancy, and as I mentioned before, I did not suffer hardly any morning sickness...perhaps I have this vitamin to thank?

Other key features: Aside from having a variety of B vitamins, this formula also has added folate and biotin. Raw, gluten-free, dairy-free, free of binders and fillers, and non-GMO.

8. Digestive Enzyme- I took: Enzymedica: Digest Complete Enzyme Formula


Approximate Cost: $39 for 180 caps (that will last me about 90 days)
When and how much to take: I take two a day, one right when I wake up before breakfast, and one before lunch. It's key to take them BEFORE a meal, as opposed to after because it will be too late. You need those enzymes in there, doing there thing right when the food gets there, not after it's already been sitting there, and your body is struggling to digest it. The bottle recommends taking one before each meal, I haven't found that I needed to do this, as two a day seems to work just fine for me. I tried one a day, and that wasn't enough, so adding that second one a day, seems to have helped.

Why do I take it: I won't bore you with the scientific facts and descriptions, but the science behind digestive enzymes is basically that our body and the food we eat (when raw) is usually equipped with a variety of enzymes that help us breakdown our food completely and convert the food into absorbable nutrients. Unfortunately some individuals have enzyme deficiencies (which I think I might have), so when I eat food, my body only has it's JV squad out to help digest the food, leaving me with semi-digested food which leads to the bloating and upset stomachs I'm prone to getting. When I take a digestive enzyme before the meal, things change...the Varsity team comes out, my food gets digested, my tummy stays happy, and best of all there's no gas (sorry for TMI, but that's my body's first sign of digestive trouble).

Since I've started taking the digestive enzyme over a year ago, I feel like I'm getting more out of the food I eat. I try to eat very healthy and to think that my body was not able to digest and absorb all those nutrients and vitamins from the food I was eating in the past, is frustrating. But now that I have the digestive enzyme, I feel like I'm really getting more bang for my buck with all the healthy food I eat. 

During pregnancy, I think my digestion is even slower, so these digestive enzymes were even more crucial. In fact, I ran out for a week and thought I could make it just fine...but boy was I wrong! I was bloated, irregular, and uncomfortable. I will never make that mistake again. So whether you are pregnant or not, if you happen to struggle with digestive issues, you may want to consider trying a digestive enzyme. 

Other formulas to try out from Enzymedica: Digest Basic (wasn't strong enough for me), Digest Gold (too strong for me, made my stomach cramp), Digest Spectrum (wasn't strong enough for me), just to name a few. But everyone is different so try the different formulas to see what will work for you.

So that's my vegan prenatal vitamins and supplements, and now I will breakdown how I take them. To divide up the doses, I take one group of vitamins with breakfast and another group with dinner. I beleive that this helps keep the nutrients in my system at a steady pace instead of just dumping them all in first thing morning. Most of the supplements have several capsules, so dividing the dose in half is pretty easy. Here's about how it goes...

First thing: 1 Digestive Enzyme, 1 PB Assist+ probiotic. (I
get up around 4:45 AM most days so I take these first, then I
workout, have breakfast and take the rest. On the weekends
though, I just combine these vitamins with the vitamins next).

Vitamins with Breakfast: 2 Multivitamins, 1 Vitamin B,
2  Calcium/Magnesium, 1 dose Vitamin D, and since it was
late in pregnancy 1 Evening Primrose Oil. If it were
earlier in pregnancy this would be replaced with a dose
of the Omega 3 supplement.

Vitamins with Dinner: 1 Multivitamin, 1 Vitamin B,
3 Calcium/Magnesium, and 1 dose Vitamin D.

One last thing...if it seems like I spend a lot on vitamins and supplements, you're right I do, but I believe that the quality of supplements is very important, so I'm willing to pay a bit more. Don't get me wrong though, I like to save money! So I buy all of my supplements online, and a majority of them I use Amazon's Subscribe and Save program. This saves me a lot of money and most of the time I can get my supplements for half of the price as they would be if I got them at a health food store. Another perk about getting them online, or through Amazon.com is that you can read other people's reviews of them, which can sometimes be very helpful.

Whew...that was probably way more information than you ever wanted to know about the vegan prenatal vitamins that I took before, during, and after my pregnancy. Again, I am not a doctor so even though these supplements worked great for me, research yourself and do what fits you, your baby, and your diet/lifestyle. Have any questions? Feel free to post them below and I'll answer them the best I can.

*Disclaimer: I purchased all of these vitamins and supplements with my own money and this is my honest opinion of them.*

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